Bill Wheelhouse

Executive Editor/ Anchor/ Reporter/ State Week Host

217-206-6402

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Statehouse
7:13 am
Wed March 12, 2014

GOP Candidates Face University of Illinois Admissions Question

The Republican contenders for governor are facing questions about their roles in a five-year-old admissions scandal at the University of Illinois.  

The scandal involved some politicians using clout to get students enrolled. State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Sen. Kirk Dillard have acknowledged their names are on the list the University of Illinois maintained of lawmakers who called to check on applications. They were asked about it at a televised debate last week.  

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Health Desk
1:38 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

State Health Panel Wants To See Expansion Of Health Jobs

LaMar Hasbrouck, IDPH Director
Credit WUIS

A state panel has released nearly two dozen recommendations to deal with the increase in patients expected under the Affordable Care Act.  However, some of those ideas will be hard to get approved.

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Education
7:56 am
Thu March 6, 2014

University Of Illinois Trustees To Vote On Sex-Change Insurance

Credit University of Illinois

University of Illinois trustees are expected to vote Thursday on adding coverage for sex-change operations to the health insurance plan used by many students at the flagship campus.  

Many of the Urbana-Champaign campus' more than 40,000 students use the insurance and would see costs rise by 15 percent in the proposal is approved. Undergraduates would pay $291 a semester starting next fall. That's an increase of $37.  

But university officials say most of that increase is due to the federal Affordable Care Act rather than adding sex-change coverage.  

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Regional
6:28 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Dead Animals Lead To Animal Cruelty Charges

The Kane County sheriff's office says it arrested a suburban Chicago woman after finding 10 dead animals and others that were malnourished on a pair of farms.  

According to the Daily Herald (http://bit.ly/1ne0I7r ), the horse, pony and other animals were found on farms near Maple Park and in Hampshire in Kane County. The discoveries were made after someone called to report a dead horse at one farm.  

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Statehouse
6:15 am
Thu March 6, 2014

GOP Governor Candidates Argue Pensions

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Republican candidates for Illinois governor are arguing about pension reform and the state's finances in the second-to-last debate ahead of the March 18 primary.  

State Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, businessman Bruce Rauner  and Treasurer Dan Rutherford attended the debate Wednesday hosted by WGN-TV and the Chicago Tribune.  

Brady is the only one who supported a recent pension overhaul that cuts benefits for state workers and retirees. Dillard voted against it, which has been the reason that several unions have endorsed him.  

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Statehouse
8:14 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Illinois Business Groups Say Deregulation Saved Consumers $

Business groups say utility competition has saved consumers money.
Credit AARP

A new report says electricity deregulation has saved Illinois customers up to $37 billion over the past 16 years.  

The report being released Monday by four business groups says the average household has paid $3,600 less overall than if the average annual electricity rates had stayed the same.  

Deregulation kicked in in 1998, allowing Illinois utilities to compete for business on the open market rather than being regulated monopolies whose rates were set. The utilities before deregulation both supplied and delivered electricity to customers, who had no other choices.  

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Statehouse
7:17 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Civic Federation Has Plan To Balance Illinois Budget

Credit Civic Federation

The Civic Federation is releasing a new proposal it says will balance Illinois' budget, eliminate its bill backlog and reduce taxes.  

The plan includes capping spending to help the state pay off its $5.4 billion backlog of unpaid bills over the next five years.  

It also would extend the state's temporary income tax increase by a year before reducing tax rates gradually, and calls for taxing pension and social security income.  

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Statehouse
6:43 am
Thu February 27, 2014

DCFS Director Resigns After One Month

Arthur Bishop
Credit WBEZ

The director of the state's child welfare agency who pleaded guilty to stealing money from clients of a Chicago social-service agency 20 years ago has resigned from his post.  

Department of Children and Family Services Director Arthur Bishop submitted a letter of resignation to Gov. Pat Quinn's office Wednesday. The letter notes that his background could be a distraction for Quinn in the upcoming election.  

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Statehouse
5:49 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Effort To Consolidate Pension Lawsuits

Efforts are underway to consolidate four lawsuits challenging Illinois' new pension reform law.  

Lawyers representing the respective groups of state retirees who filed class-action suits have asked the Supreme Court to allow them to present their cases as one.  

The groups share the common claim that the new pension reform plan violates the state constitution, which says benefits may not be diminished.  

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Regional
7:28 am
Tue February 25, 2014

FutureGen Gets OK For Morgan County Pipeline Route

FutureGen site in Meredosia
Credit WUIS

Illinois regulators have given the FutureGen Alliance the go-ahead for a 30-mile carbon dioxide pipeline.  

The  State Journal-Register reports  the pipeline would be buried at least four feet underground in northeast Morgan County. It'd be even deeper under farmland.  

The $1.68 billion project will refit a coal-fired power plant in Meredosia  in western Illinois. Authorities want to remove carbon dioxide from the coal and store it underground. The greenhouse gas is linked to climate change.  

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Regional
7:16 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Area Gets Money for Storm Cleanup

Sandbagging last spring at Meredosia
Credit Bill Wheelhouse WUIS

Some federal money is heading into the area to help pay for storm cleanup and recovery from last year.

The state will get $6470,000 to help pay temporary workers to help with the cleanup from flooding, tornadoes and other storms last April and May.

The most recent grant will be spent in Calhoun, Cass, Fulton, Mason, Morgan, Pike, Schuyler and Scott counties.

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Statehouse
7:18 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Quinn Getting Campaign Operation in Gear

Credit Amanda Vinicky

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is ramping up his re-election campaign. 

Quinn's campaign announced over the weekend the Chicago Democrat has hired Illinois native Bill Hyers to serve as chief strategist. 

Hyers most recently managed Bill de Blasio's successful campaign for mayor of New York. In 2012 he managed President Barack Obama's Pennsylvania campaign operation. He was Midwest director for Obama in 2008.  

Quinn is seeking his second full term. He faces a lesser-known opponent, anti-violence activist Tio Hardiman of Hillside, in the March 18 primary.  

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Regional
7:17 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Four Suspected Tornados Hit Central Illinois

Credit UNC-Greensboro

Surveyors are expected to head to Mechanicsburg and Pana Friday to review damage firsthand from Thursday's storms.

The National Weather Service says four possible tornadoes touched down in central Illinois, causing minor damage.  

Officials with the agency's office in Lincoln say they're reviewing preliminary reports of four twisters that struck Thursday afternoon.  

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Statehouse
7:13 am
Thu February 20, 2014

Illinois Bill Would Exempt Olympians From Paying State Tax

Credit NBC

It is an example of a measure that might not affect many people.

An Illinois lawmaker says Olympic athletes who win medals shouldn't have to pay state tax on their awards.

State Sen. Julie Morrison is sponsor of legislation approved by a Senate committee Wednesday that would waive the tax.

Morrison is a Democrat from the Chicago suburb of Deerfield who says she represents many of Illinois' Olympic athletes. She says Olympic athletes proudly represent Illinois and the U.S. and ``we should honor them for their commitment.''

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Regional
6:27 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Illinois Sites Named To Historic Register

Galena, Ill.
Credit visit Galena

More than two dozen Illinois buildings and downtown districts have been added to the National Register of Historic Places.  

The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency says 23 buildings and 11 historic districts were added to the register in 2013.  

They include everything from a mausoleum in the suburban Chicago community of Beecher and an East St. Louis hotel to historic districts in Galena and Plainfield and a Chicago furniture factory.  

Inclusion on the list means properties are deemed worthy of preservation and makes them eligible for financial incentives.  

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Regional
5:39 am
Thu February 6, 2014

New Lincoln Stamp To Be Unveiled Feb. 12

Credit presidentlincoln.illinois.gov

A new commemorative stamp will be released to mark Abraham Lincoln's 205th birthday.  

U.S. Postal Service officials will be on hand Feb. 12 at the Old State Capitol in Springfield for an unveiling ceremony for the new stamp, which features an image of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.  

Lincoln and his family lived in Springfield for more than two decades before he was elected as the country's 16th president in 1860. Lincoln worked out of the capitol building as both a lawyer and a politician.  

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Poverty
8:17 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Illinois Poverty Remains Stubbornly High

Credit Georgetown University

A new study finds Illinois' overall poverty rate is about the same as it was a half century ago.  

The report released Thursday by the Chicago-based Social IMPACT Research Center says almost 15 percent of Illinois residents lived below the federal poverty line in 2012, about the same percentage as in 1960.  

That's despite scores of state and federal aid programs and a dramatic drop in the number of older people in poverty.  

Poverty has increased among working-age men and women, and 1 in 5 children are in poverty. It's highest among blacks and Latinos.  

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Harvest Desk
4:42 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Sangamon Co. Farmers Settle Subsidy Misuse Claims UPDATE

Credit wattpublishing/flickr

The Department of Justice says a central Illinois farming business has paid $5.3 million to settle allegations it used fake partnerships to avoid limits on federal subsidies its owners could receive.  

The department said Wednesday that Dowson Farms of Divernon has agreed to the out-of-court settlement but the terms do not include an admission of guilt. Divernon is about 15 miles south of Springfield.  

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Harvest Desk
6:56 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Illinois Meat Packer Recalls Hams

Credit USDA

A northern Illinois meat packer is recalling more than 67,000 thousand pounds of sliced spiral ham due to possible Listeria contamination.

Gusto packing shipped the hams to wholesalers in Illinois and three other states.  It includes Centrella Signature, Amish Valley and Ripple Creek Farm Brands.

The problem was discovered when Gusto Packing’s internal sampling program found some of its products tested positive for the bacteria which causes isteriosis

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Statehouse
1:06 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Professor Says Publicly Funded Campaigns Are Better for Voters

UIS Political Scientist Michael Miller
Credit courtesy of Michael Miller

An expert on campaign finance says his studies show that government funding of state level races is better for voters and candidates.  Michael Miller of the University of Illinois Springfield makes the case in his new book "Subsidizing Democracy: How Public Funding Changes Elections And How It Can Work In The Future". He spoke with Bill Wheelhouse:

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Statehouse
7:23 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Quinn Signs Another Pension Measure

Gov. Pat Quinn
Credit wikimedia

Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a pension-reform measure for the Chicago Park District.  

The legislation Quinn signed Tuesday is designed to deal with a $971 million deficit in the district's pension program. When lawmakers approved it in November, experts hailed it as example of compromise for what was then an elusive solution to the five state pension systems' $100 billion hole.  

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Regional
7:25 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Secretary of State's Offices Closed Today

Secretary of State Jesse White
Credit Secretary of State's Office

The Secretary of State's office is closing all 138 of its facilities around Illinois. Agency spokesman Dave Druker ) says officials decided to shut the locations on Monday because of bad road conditions in central and southern Illinois, along with the dangerous cold in northern Illinois. Offices are set to reopen on Tuesday. 

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Regional
7:16 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Road Closings in Sangamon County

Sangamon County reports that portions of the following roads are closed due to drifting snow. 

CH 40 – W. Loami Road from Chatham to Morgan Co. line.

CH 45 – Johns Creek Road from Loami to Thayer Rd.

CH 6 – Thayer Road from Morgan Co. line to Thayer.

CH 47 – Prairie Creek Road from Pleasant Plains Road to Farmingdale Road.

CH 10 – Pleasant Plains Road from Old Jacksonville Road to Pleasant Plains.

CH 48 – Prairie School Road from Sherman Road to Logan Co. line.

CH 16 – Buffalo Hart Road from IL 54 to Logan Co. line.

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Regional
5:40 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Many Weather Related Closings Across Region Today

University of Illinois Springfield & Lincoln Land Community College along with most other colleges are closed today.

Springfield District 186, Jacksonville and surrounding school districts closed.

SIU Health Care, Springfield Clinic and Memorial Physician Services closed today.

Most waste hauling in Springfield is canceled today.

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Regional
6:10 pm
Sun January 5, 2014

UIS & Springfield 186 Closed Monday.

Credit Minneapolis Public Schools

The University of Illinois Springfield is closed Monday due to weather conditions.  UIS is operating under its essential services policy.

Springfield School District 186 is closed Monday, as is the Jacksonville School  District and most other area schools.

Other colleges closed on Monday include Bradley University, Illinois College, Illinois State University, Lincoln College, Lincoln Land Community College, Robert Morris University, SIU School of Medicine and Western Illinois University,

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Health Desk
6:24 am
Fri January 3, 2014

Springfield Hospital Acquiring Passavant In Jacksonville

Passavant Hospital, Jacksonville
Credit Passavant Area Hospital

Jacksonville's Passavant Area Hospital is going to become part of Memorial Health System.   It will become the fourth hospital to go under the Memorial umbrella.   A joint news release says the two organizations have signed an affiliation agreement.  It still needs regulatory approval.

Passavant is a 93 bed hospital with about 900  full and part time workers.
Memorial's three hospitals have more than 500 beds. It employs more than 5,700.

Along with Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, the  System also has hospitals in Lincoln and Taylorville.

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Regional
9:53 am
Mon December 30, 2013

Higher Speed Limits in Illinois in 2014

A map of 70 MPH speed limits.   Drivers in the Springfield area will still have a speed limit of 65 mph around the city.    The lower speed limit affects motorists from the south side of the city to the northwest side of Springfield.

Regional
7:18 am
Wed December 18, 2013

Springfield & Chatham Reach Tentative Settlement

Credit CWLP

Springfield and Chatham hope to approval a final settlement in the coming month regarding a water contract dispute between the two communities.

This will put an end to a lawsuit over Chatham's decision to break its water contract with CWLP.

Under the deal, Chatham will pay Springfield a half million dollars in damages and it will pay the city $200,000 for a long term lease of ground where Chatham has a pump station.

In addition, Chatham will allow Springfield to transport water through Chatham's water system to Loami.

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Education
9:18 am
Tue December 17, 2013

40% Of Students Finish College Where They Start

Credit University of Illinois, Springfield

Only 4 in 10 students who entered college in 2007 have earned
degrees from the school where they started.

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Education
11:55 am
Thu December 12, 2013

District 186 Makes Choice For Next Superintendent

Jennifer Gill

The  Springfield school board is negotiating with a local woman to become the district's next superintendent. 

The board hopes to extend an offer in early January to Jennifer Gill.   Gill has been working the past year as the director of teaching and learning in McClean County district five based in Normal.   Prior to that, she had worked as an administrator in the Springfield School District and was principal at Vachel Lindsey and McClernand elementary schools.

The 44 year old Gill has also taught in the Springfield and Jacksonville School Districts.   

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